February 11, 2016
Dedicated Readers will know our love for the Food & Wine Classic held annually at the Swan and Dolphin resorts at Walt Disney World.
The Classic, which is held on one weekend during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, offers guests unlimited food and wine at over 40 stations featuring culinary selections from the hotel’s restaurants and wine from more than 30 wineries on the hotel’s causeway.
There are also cocktail and beer selections (including a dedicated beer garden for an additional charge)…
as well as live entertainment on the causeway during the event.
In addition are hands-on seminars with the hotel’s chefs and beverage experts.
Considering that the Classic is over a half-year away why are we talking about it now?
Well, the official dates for the 2016 Classic were announced a few weeks ago, and it will be held on October 28 & 29. We usually don’t get confirmation of the dates this early…
and there’s something else we don’t get nearly this soon…
Yes boys and girls… we were surprised just a few days ago with an email from the events media rep…
and we already know that 2016 menu will include an American wagyu beef slider with avocado-bacon aioli and Applewood smoked bacon on a toasted brioche from the Fountain; a salt-roasted prime New York strip loin served with mashed potatoes and sauce bordelaise from Shula’s Steak House and seared striped bass with fall artichokes and Nicoise olives in a Spanish caper emulsion from Garden Grove. Returning dishes include the popular shrimp cocktail steamroller from Todd English’s bluezoo and dragon sushi roll from Kimonos.
I’m personally looking forward to the Hand Crafted Bacon with Sweet Corn Puree, Fried Brussel Sprouts and Compressed Heirloom Apple… (see it here).
The only part of the menu missing are the updated items from the new Carnival Corner section that was very popular last year.
Funnel cakes with a variety of toppings, corn dogs, and a “Pop-up Mac & Cheese Bar” with do-it-yourself toppings were among the offerings, so we can probably assume similar items will be available this year.
You can view the 2016 menu (with drool-worthy pics!) at the Swan/Dolphin Classic website.
The cost for the causeway tickets (which allow you all you want to eat and drink during the event) looks to be the same as last year ($105 per person per day) while the ticket plus the beer garden option has gone up $5.00 to $130 (which is not worth the extra charge in my opinion…).
Package rates (which include room and causeway ticket) look to have jumped up by at least $40 per night… the “packages” are not really much of a deal (again in my opinion) as you don’t really save any money compared to the regular room cost plus the cost of the event ticket, you just get the convenience of buying them both at the same time (and yes, it is very nice to have a room right there to stagger back to… but it would be nice if they cut a bit of a break on the price for the package or at least throw in one of the seminars for free or at a significantly reduced price…).
You can see the complete rates and details at the Classic site.
But yeah, we’ll be there one way or another… will we see you there?
July 21, 2015
Wine Enthusiast Magazine has published their 2015 list of 100 Best Wine Restaurants in America, eateries they identify as this year’s top spots to eat and drink across the country. In the August 2015 issue you can find this year’s annual list that features interviews with star chefs and sommeliers.
And there’s a WDW restaurant listed in the top 100!
Those who have dined at Jiko in the Animal Kingdom Lodge won’t be shocked at its’ inclusion on this list of the best places to wine and dine! According to the piece Jiko houses the largest foreign collection of South African wine. The list contains approximately 120–140 selections, several exclusive to Jiko.
Above is a photo from the article showing one of the signature appetizers at Jiko, grilled wild boar tenderloin with mealie pap and chakalaka which they recommend to pair with Spice Route’s 2011 Chakalaka from South Africa. And from personal experience I can say this is one fine dish!
Now I’m thinking about a trip to Animal Kingdom Lodge… open the wine please!
October 23, 2014
The Fifth Annual Food & Wine Classic at the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World is just around the corner, and I’m getting excited! The event runs on Friday and Saturday with the restaurants from the resorts providing food items (some will change from night-to-night, some remain the same both nights) and tons of wine and other adult beverages being offered. You can buy a wristband that allows you unlimited servings of everything, or buy individual tickets to purchase items as you like (not the best deal). There are also several seminars offered (for an additional fee) during the weekend.
In anticipation of the upcoming weekend (October 31 & November 1, 2014, by the way…) I thought we’d take a pictorial look at last years event to whet our virtual appetites… so let’s dive in!
This really is our favorite event during Food & Wine Festival time, and maybe our favorite event of the year period! Bonnie and I will be there for sure (along with other members of the Harem), and we hope to see you there as well! If you’re going to be there, please be sure to say so in the comments below!
For more info on the Classic, go to the event website!
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September 4, 2014
A couple of weeks ago Bonnie & I made our way to the World for an abbreviated weekend to finally check out the Frozen festivities at the Studios. And of course, there were some eats (and drinks) along the way…
You’ve likely seen all about the Summer Frozen Fun by now, so I won’t recount all the goings on…
We did happen to catch the parade as it was exiting the park near Star Tours (which is not a bad place to try and see it from), it was cute and actually better than expected.
And speaking of better than expected, I must admit I really did enjoy the Frozen Sing-Along (although like pretty much all the males in the audience, I didn’t do too much singing-along…). There are a couple of fun hosts in addition to Anna and Elsa, and it’s a blast to just watch the kids (and some adults as well) in the crowd who all seemed to be really getting into it!
I didn’t think too much of the Trading Post area with the skating rink and snow play area, but Bonnie and Mama Ginny (who along with her other half Papa Harry had joined us for the day) really though it was done well.
And of course there was lots of merch and Frozen-themed eats to be had…
In several places you could get a variety of baked goods and sweets. Many, if not most, were Olaf-centric, and while they were all pretty cute, they seemed quite pricey (not that I should be surprised…).
The Olaf cake pop here for example would be about two bites-worth (at least for an average adult, who I assume is not the primary target) for $4.19, or about $2.10 per bite…
Below the Olaf pops you can also see some Snowballs… we’ll come back to those later…
For lunch we slid into the Backlot Express. New to the menu since we’d been there last (which had been a while) were Buffalo Chicken Nuggets, which Harry and I both ordered. They weren’t bad at all – Disney’s nuggets are usually pretty good – and the basic Buffalo sauce was actually a bit hotter than I had expected. You can get both Ranch and Blue Cheese dressing at the condiment area, so there were dipping options for the chicken, even though there wasn’t any celery or other cruchy-things served with the nuggets (fries come on the side, I guess you could have gotten a side of carrot sticks instead to take the place of the traditional celery, but just a few sticks of those thrown on the side would have been nice, and for nine bucks or thereabouts I’m sure it wouldn’t really kill their bottom line).
Bonnie and Virginia both went with the old standby Grilled Veggie Sandwich (which I think is consistently one of the better sandwich options available in several locations around property).
Virginia made the genius move to order the childs version and the sandwich came at about two-thirds the size of the full version (you may not be able to tell that from the pic about due to the perspective). There was a smaller side of fries (and even my spud-loving wife admitted that she didn’t need to eat the full adult side of fries and the smaller version would have filled her fried potato cravings) along with a cookie and small bottled water (or milk if you want). It was plenty of food and for $5.99 a really good deal. Likewise, if two people both want the same sandwich, the full version is plenty big enough to split if you’re not starving…
Later in the afternoon our friends left us to our own devices, and we took that time to head back to our resort and relax a bit and have a bite to eat before coming back to the Studios for the Frozen fireworks later that night.
Outside the resort (we were staying the night at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge) near the bus stop I noticed a small sign with a QR code on it…
when I scanned the code with my phone it immediately went to the info and online booking engine for the signature restaurant at the resort, Artist Point. This is a simple and great idea by Disney, and I’m assuming there are also in place at other resorts (anyone seen them?). I also assume that they only put these out when they know that the restaurants in the resort are not full and could use some seats filled…
In spite of the temptation of Artist Point, we had planned to have some eats at one of our favorite places on property, the Territory Lounge. This cozy and nicely-themed room is right next to Artist Point. With comfy seating, a nice atmosphere and good, casual service I’m always surprised that this place is rarely crowded. And with the food coming from the kitchen next door, it has some of the best “bar food” you’ll find anywhere in the World.
And in addition to the food, it has a real decent selection of craft beers…
so much so that I had to try more than one…
Literally everything on the menu sounded good to us, and we debated starting with two items, but we decided to share the fondue to begin with and if we were still hungry after that we’d try something else.
The melty cheese was even better than we expected and we happily dipped the variety of breads into the pot. A couple of types of apples were also good with the cheese, but the best were the (oh-too-few) figs! We finished it off (with Bonnie debating about licking the bowl) and sadly had no more room for anything else on this visit.
We made our way back to the Studios and after an eerie visit to the Hollywood Tower Hotel, we decided to stake out a spot for the fireworks. By now Bonnie wanted a bit of something sweet so she went to get into line at Sweet Spells to see if any of the sweet snacks met her approval (did I mention the word sweet yet?). While she did this I got into a not-overly-long-but-incredibly-slow-moving line at the outdoor bar by the Brown Derby to try out one of the Frozen-themed specialty cocktails. After what seemed like an eternity without the line making much progress, I actually bailed out deciding that an over-priced cocktail wasn’t in the cards for me that night (yes, Dear Dedicated Readers, I of all people, passed on a margarita…).
As I met back up with Bonnie I found that she had selected a Snowball: a white sugar-coated Rice Crispie treat. We made our way towards the front of the park to be able to make a quick getaway after the fireworks and plopped our rears down on the curb to enjoy our sweet snack before the evenings pyrotechnics.
Well… “enjoy” wasn’t exactly what we did with the not-so-snowy snowball… The sugar coating surrounding the crispies was so thick and hard that Bonnie was afraid she’d break a tooth getting through it! I tested the strength of my bridge and forced my artificial incisors into the rigid crust finally making my way to the insides. The rice cereal inside was, like the outside, overly sweet as to be actually unpleasant… so I think this will be the last snowball we try… now to check my insulin levels…
Oh yeah, the fireworks were great! Not quite to the level of the ones we saw at last years villains event in the Studios, but well worth braving the crowds for!
The following day we took a boat over to the Magic Kingdom to check out the newly added waffle fries options at the Golden Oak Outpost.
Like we’d noticed at the gift shop at Wilderness Lodge, the Halloween merchandise was in full push mode in the Kingdom despite it still being August on this visit. I’m not usually a big fan of paying extra for the souvenir popcorn containers, but we both agreed that the new Haunted Mansion inspired Mickey bucket was awfully cute…
We eventually made it to the Outpost in Frontierland. Situated across the walkway from Pecos Bills, this location has gone through a few permutations since the exit of the McDonald’s fries several years ago, and just recently a potato-heavy bill of fare had begun to be offered.
We tried the first two options on the menu: Brown Gravy and Cheese Waffle Fries and the BLT Waffle Fries.
The Gravy and Cheese Fries are a take on the traditional Canadian treat of Poutine, while the BLT version is somewhat reminiscent of the once-popular Figaro Fries that were served at Pinocchio Village Haus in Fantasyland.
The topped fries were not-quite-as-large-as-you’d-like for $5.99 each, but still after sharing the two servings we were sated for lunchtime. We really liked both versions (of the two I’d say I preferred the gravy option… when in doubt always choose gravy…) and are looking forward to coming back to try some of the other spudly items from the menu.
Well, that was it for our dining adventures during the abbreviated weekend at the World, hope you enjoyed coming along!
As always, we’re back to the kitchen, and soon we’ll be back to the World – I hear there is a little event coming up soon at Epcot…
See you soon!
If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to “like” and “share”!
July 31, 2014
Just announced were two new week-night events for the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival:
The Late Night Live is on Tuesday & Thursday only…
If either (or both) of these sound attractive to you, you can book starting Thursday, July 31 at 7 AM by calling 407-WDW-FEST (407-939-3378).
Do these events sound good to you? Will you book them? Let us know!
May 30, 2014
I realized it’s been a while since we’ve done a “Weekend Eats” post, and it’s not because we haven’t been to the World, it’s just my usual slack posting schedule… so here, Dear Dedicated Readers, is a combo edition of several relatively recent visits to WDW, and a very recent trek to another off-property-property…
Even though I’d made a couple of trips to the Flower & Garden Festival (which you can review in the posts “A First Taste of Spring: Epcot Flower & Garden Festival Opening Day 2014” and “Second Helpings at the 2014 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival“), Bonnie hadn’t been yet by mid-April, so we made a day trip so that she could exercise her camera-muscles on the festival foliage, and of course sample some of the savory offerings…
There was an interesting “visitor” at Epcot on that day…
the Epcot-centric food truck that normally resides at Downtown Disney made a test appearance at the entrance to World Showcase. I was told by a management-type that it was a test run for that weekend to see how guests responded – if it did well we might actually see the truck (or trucks) show up again during the Food & Wine Festival (which sounds kinda crazy, but if they parked one or two closer to the entrance of the park it might just work).
We wandered, ate some good stuff, and after an all-to-brief visit, we made our way back home, but it wouldn’t be long before we were back…
the next weekend, to be specific, as Miss Bonnie graciously indulged my desire to see one of my childhood faves, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits (and shockingly, after five concerts, Bonnie still doesn’t know the words to “Henry the Eighth”).
And during the weekend we did have some more of the goodies served at the kitchens of the Flower & Garden Festival.
The manicotti from Italy was a dish I hadn’t sampled yet this year – cheese-filled as advertised – good but not life-changing. The shrimp & grits was a favorite from Florida Fresh last year, and Bonnie deemed it just as good this go round.
Oh yeah, there was a visit to La Cava…
Saturday morning of that weekend we had a “good-bye” breakfast at Cat Cora’s Kouzzina.
The restaurant is scheduled to close the end of September after a five-year run in the former Spoodles location on the Boardwalk. I’ve always enjoyed the place, and had a really great experience and meal there during Food & Wine a few years ago, which you can see a bit of in the post “Who’s that strange man trying to fondle an Iron Chef?” (and no, I never followed up with a full post on that night…). I’ll be sad to see it go, and so to say farewell we decided to have at least one more meal there.
As we were seated and our server arrived with the menus I though she looked quite familiar – turned out it was the ever effervescent spikey-hair-blonde Holly who seems to always be on hand at the River Roost in Port Orleans when YeHaa Bob Jackson is on stage! She was a bit more subdued at a more sober breakfast service (although there were a couple of “eye-openers” on our table…) than during the raucous YeHaa Bob shows…
Mama Ginny and Papa Harry, who had never been there before, joined Bonnie and I for breakfast and liked it so much that they returned just a couple of weeks later.
The Stacked Kouzzina Breakfast, which Bonnie & Harry both had, was the real winner here – it’s a nice combo of somewhat unusual flavors for a breakfast meal and they both were happy members of the Clean Plate Club at the end of the meal.
Afterwards we made another trip to Epcot for some more Flower & Garden food and fun…
I really liked the lamb roll from Morocco – a crispy egg-roll-like-thing filled to the brim with shredded meat!
We also tried the mushroom and cheese quesadilla from Mexico with less than spectacular results… it was fairly bland, and we both agreed it wasn’t very “Mexican” to our tastes…
And yes, there were some more songs to enjoy that evening…
On Sunday we found ourselves once again around the World Showcase and I finally tried the Croissant Doughnut from the Refreshment Port…
this hybrid between a croissant and (you guessed it) a doughnut is better known as a Cronut, but that moniker has been trademarked, so hence the “Croissant Doughnut”.
There are flaky layers inside the cinnamon-sugar coated outside, and yes, it’s pretty dang tasty, but at $4.49 I think it won’t be an everyday treat…
We ended our eating at Epcot for this weekend by having a trifecta of dishes from the Buttercup Cottage in the UK. We enjoyed all the items, and I liked the sausage roll a bit more the second time than I had when I first tried it.
The next weekend we found ourselves back in the World for Expedition Everest weekend – we weren’t participating in the race, but several friends were in WDW for the event, so we came to just hang out a bit… and eat some more…
We were staying at our favorite resort, Kidani Village, and made a quick trip over to Animal Kingdom late on Friday afternoon.
As it was close to closing time for the park by the time we got there, many of the quick-service eating locations were closing down, so we stepped into Yak and Yeti and quickly were granted a table.
We ordered a couple of adult beverages while we perused the menu and eventually settled on just having a couple of appetizers.
Neither were particularly memorable – they looked better than they tasted. The food wasn’t bad, just sorta there – we’ve certainly had better-tasting items there before. The marinated cucumbers alongside the wings were probably the best thing on the table (other than the beverages…). Our server was great though!
It still irks me a bit that they don’t take Tables in Wonderland – they do give a 10% annual passholder discount, but it’s only on entrees… gee, thanks…
Not quite sated, we headed to the bar at Sanaa when we made it back to Kidani.
You can order appetizers from the restaurant while at the bar (and I have seen them serve from the full menu in the bar as well in the past, even though they say they aren’t supposed to do so), so Bonnie had a glass of wine while I tried an IPA as we looked over the bar menu.
We settled on one of our absolutely favorite things, the bread service. You get to choose three of five great Indian breads, and three accompaniments for $9.99 (or you can have all nine of the saucy sides for two more bucks). Unless you’re carb-phobic, this is a great choice to start a meal for two or more, or like we did here share between two for a nice, filling later night snack. The naans are our number one, and are freshly made to order, they are pretty hard to beat with any of the accompanying sauces.
And yes, they do take Tables in Wonderland at the bar there!
We wound up going all over the place on Saturday to find sustenance…
After a quick trip to the Wide World of Sports to check out the race expo, we went over to the Polynesian Resort to see about the goings on there.
The addition of a Disney Vacation Club area to the resort had been announced quite a while back (and very obvious construction has been taking place for several weeks), but there had been many other rumors going around about some other changes to the resort, and as it happened, many of those changes had been officially announced the day before we got there (most notably to the adult-beverage-indulgers among us, the addition of a east coast version of Trader Sam’s!). We did our best to get info from several cast members there as to the exact location of where the new bar will be, but all, including a couple of managers, claimed ignorance as to where in the resort Trader Sam’s will eventually reside.
Looking to fill our grumbling bellies, we made our way to the temporary location of the resort’s quick-service eatery, Captain Cook’s. The normal location for the restaurant (lower lobby level facing the pool) has been shuttered for a while undergoing a refurb – with the announcement of the upcoming changes (and the recent closing of the Wyland Gallery) we now wonder if Cook’s will actually return to it’s former location or wind up somewhere else in the resort. It’s old site sure seems like it would be prime territory for a new bar…
We’ve enjoyed several items from Capt. Cook’s before (notably the Pork Nachos and Pork Sandwich). This day we tried a new item, the Thai Coconut Meatballs.
We also ordered a side of the chips – a seasoned combo of potato chips, tortilla chips and fried wonton skins. This isn’t on the menu, but if you ask they’ll gladly serve you up a nice plate of them.
The meatballs themselves were fine, but I found the sauce to be way too sweet. Bonnie liked them a bit better, but after she added a bit of soy sauce we both found them more palatable. Also a few steamed/stir-fried veggies on the plate would have been nice. The chips were the hit of the table – I’d go back just for some more of those!
While in the neighborhood we met up with our friend Corndog Laura and took a quick monorail trip over to check out the DVC rooms at the Grand Floridian (they are pretty gorgeous!). From there we went back to Kidani, and as Laura hadn’t done it before, we took the cultural tour of Sanaa.
We were taken around the restaurant by a lovely young woman from South Africa and she gave us background on the details of the dining area. It’s a very interesting tour, and at the end they feed you! We (once again) got a sampling of the bread service, this time on the house!
In case you’re not aware, they give this tour for free every day at 4 PM. You don’t have to sign up, just arrive at the restaurants podium a few minutes before four. You don’t even have to be a guest staying at the resort, just show up!
Likewise they do a restaurant tour (also at 4 PM) over at Jambo House. Just make your way to the entrance of Boma and you’ll get a tour there (along usually with a sample of one of their great soups and a Zebra Dome or other dessert). From there they take you to Jiko for a tour of that dining establishment, and they usually wind that up with a sample of their signature Taste of Africa appetizer (which is also a bread and dips sampler). Definitely worth a trip over there (if you’re not already staying there), and a rare freebie at Disney!
As if we’d not had enough to eat for the day, we wound up heading over to the Coronado Springs Resort to check out the options at the Pepper Market. Laura went for the roasted chicken, while Bonnie & I shared a huge serving of nachos.
The big plate of chips was topped with chicken and beef (you can choose either or both), salsa, gooey-cheese-like-product and sour cream (jalapenos were one the side in deference to Miss Bonnie’s still mild palate). If you want a big plate of messy, bad-for-you goodness, that’s more than plenty for two people to split, this is a diet-busting deal for ten bucks. If only the beers alongside were a better deal…
On our Sunday getaway day, we went over to the Magic Kingdom to check out the final bits of construction on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (and hope for a soft-opening ride, but that wish was to go ungranted…).
We did however get shown a pretty amazing Hidden Steamboat Willie in the exit queue of the Little Mermaid ride…
it’s almost impossible to see from a picture, and you’d likely never notice it without it being pointed out to you, but when you see it, it’s down-right spectacular! We’ll be glad to show it to you sometime in the park!
For our final feasting of this weekend in the parks, we wandered into Pinocchio’s Village Haus.
Bonnie snagged us a seat overlooking Small World while I got us a Caprese Flatbread to share. Tomatoes, mozzarella and a Balsamic drizzle atop a flatbread crust, this was a very passable lunch (along with a side of fries to sate Miss Bonnie’s spud-addiction). It’s worth a try if you’re looking for something just a bit different in the Magic Kingdom.
While there I took a peek at the Friar’s Nook menu and noted that the Blue Cheese & Balsamic version of Mac & Cheese (that we had quite liked on a prior visit) had been replaced with a Pot Roast one… we’ll try next visit…
So to continue (and conclude) this extended edition of Weekend Eats, we head off property proper to visit the east coast of Florida.
We’d long been talking about wanting to visit Disney’s Vero Beach resort, and when the Iowa O’Briens had planned a trip there and asked us to come along, we jumped at the opportunity.
The resort is fairly small, but nice and full of Disney-touches. Like most of the DVC resorts, you’re not hit over the head with characters and such (in fact, the only walk-around characters appear at one lone character breakfast on Saturdays), but there are enough details, Hidden Mickeys and the like to keep even the most rabid Disney-phile happy. And without the lure of the hectic parks nearby, this is a perfect place for a relaxing stay with a Disney touch.
As we spent most of our time either at the beach, the pool or just exploring the resort, (and since we’d also brought along some foodstuffs to have in our room) we actually spent relatively little time at the on-site dining establishments.
That being said, we did visit the Green Cabin Room bar a couple of times, and really enjoyed our time spent there. Located on the second floor of the resort facing the ocean, the interior is dark and cool and chock-full of details and memorabilia of the ships that had sunk offshore of the Treasure Coast (so called because of the abundance of riches that is on the sea bed from the many shipwrecks).
Overlooking the Atlantic is a small outside deck with just four prime tables and a long bar by the window with hightop chairs. On our first visit we sat at the latter, the few tables all being filled.
We ordered the chips with blue cheese and dip along with an order of wings. The chips were good, but the cheese, while nice and strong flavored, was a bit skimpy. The fluffy fresh-herb dip was just right when you could find a nice bit of the blue cheese to pair with one of the crispy chips. The breaded wings were just average and came with a choice of three sauces (Thai Chili, Buffalo or Barbeque) – we asked for both the Thai and Buffalo and they gladly brought us ramekins of each for dipping. Despite the less-than-stellar eats, the beer was cold (and the wine expensive), the service was top-notch and it was a beautiful day with a great view of the ocean… life was good that day at the Green Room Cabin…
The next day we met the O’Brien Brood inside the bar for some more consumables. This time we chose the cheese and meat platter. Served on a long cutting board (which could have served well as a paddle in case one of or party decided to get a bit out of line) this was a nice selection of cheeses (a couple nicely stinky) and cured meats with warm flatbread and cool grapes on the side. Cheese plates are now offered at pretty much all the restaurants and resort bars in Property proper, but this one was a bit different, and a bit more hearty, with the inclusion of the meats. Bonnie and I scarfed it down with much glee and enthusiasm.
The drink menu here is the standard one used at all the bars on WDW property, with just the beers and wines varying slightly. The food menu is a bit more varied and complete compared to the ones at most of the bars on Lake Buena Vista property, there is even a separate bill of fare for lunch. All the food here comes from one floor down out of the kitchen of Shutters (the more casual of the two sit-down restaurants at Vero, the other being the more upscale Sonya’s).
We’re looking forward to getting back to the Vero Beach resort – we vowed to return sooner rather than later for another chill-out weekend – and maybe we’ll actually try the two sit-down restaurants the next time!
There you have it Dear Dedicated Readers, another (much longer than I expected) edition of Weekend Eats – hope you enjoyed the vicarious vittles!
If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to “like” and “share”!
We’re back to the World, and of course, the kitchen! See you soon!
February 28, 2014
Hello again, Dear Dedicated Readers, several days ago we took our first delayed look at the events of the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in the post “WDW Odds and Ends: 2014 Marathon Weekend Spell-Check Edition“, so now it’s (finally) time to take a little look at some of the dining (and drinking) events from the same weekend…
Despite being in the World for a long weekend, we did relatively little dining out, but what we did do was memorable, so let’s dig in!
Quite a while before the weekend we’d been asked to join several friends in trying out the newly renovated California Grill high atop the Contemporary Resort and of course we jumped at the chance…
Dinner was the night after the 10k, and some of us were still a bit creaky after the race that morning, but a few adult beverages would serve to ease those with a few pains…
Bonnie and I started with one (okay, maybe two…) of the delicious Passion Fruit Margaritas off the cocktail menu while our companions made wine their libation of choice.
As we perused the menu and enjoyed the great company, we also took in our gorgeous surroundings and the fantastic view (there have been plenty of great pics online of the refurbed restaurant, and my photography isn’t going to surpass what’s already been published, so take a look at some nice pics over at the Disney Food Blog).
Bonnie & I decided to share one of the flatbreads and a not-so-everyday-sushi item as our appetizer course.
The BBQ Pork and Apple Flatbread had pieces of coffee-brined pork, and was topped with apple butter, queso fresco, BBQ sauce and julienned pieces of sweet apples for crunch. Nope, it didn’t suck… but as good as it was, our other app choice was, well, flipping amazing…
The Pork Belly Nigri was a roll of bacon and yuzu seasoned rice with a nice piece of cured pork belly sitting on top and all drizzled with a lightly spicy teriyaki sauce… damn…
Other apps around the table included Duck in all its Glory (duck served in several ways: House-made Sausage, Rillettes, Prosciutto, Duck Liver Pâté) and Yuzu-marinated Sashimi…
a beautiful plate of Yellowfin Tuna, Salmon, Hamachi, Snapper with Wasabi Oil.
Entrees included Oak-fired Filet of Beef (served with tomato risotto, marinated baby tomatoes, petite basil and tomato butter)…
Georges Bank Scallops (with French curry spice, squash ravioli and citrus butter)…
while Bonnie and I shared one of huge and delicious sushi rolls: the Spicy Kazan Roll with crab, shrimp, scallops, tuna and fireball sauce. The sushi here isn’t cheap, but it’s pretty darn good!
As always one of the best things about the California Grill is the spectacular view, and during Wishes the lights are dimmed and the music is piped into the restaurant!
While the wife and I were stuffed to the gills, some of our party still had room for dessert…
The food and service on our visit to the California Grill was great, and the refurbished space was gorgeous. Yes, it’s among the more expensive locations on property, so it will remain a “special-event” type of place for most diners, but we’re already looking forward to going again… mmm… pork belly sushi…
Thanks to Alice, Elizabeth, Karen and Marty for some great company on that night! Yes, lucky me, I was the only guy along with five lovely ladies!
The next day Bonnie and I made our way to Epcot (big shock, huh?) and met up with Papa Harry and Mama Ginny. Word had been going around that the highly anticipated Spice Road Table in Morocco was scheduled to make it’s official opening that day so we wanted to check it out.
Much of the 10k route was through Epcot, and it was the day before during that race that some of us got our first look at the Spice Road with the final construction walls down.
So on this Saturday we made our way to World Showcase in the morning and as the rope dropped to allow guests in we, along with several others, hightailed it to the restaurant. As we got near there was a fair amount of activity in the outside seating area which we were facing, so it seemed they were getting ready to receive diners.
The cast members at the restaurant welcomed us and ushered in the first guests with much applause.
We were led in past the gorgeous bar and seated outside by one of the hostesses. She left us with the menus and soon our server (who was great BTW) arrived.
He gave us a complete rundown of the restaurant and the ideas behind the menu – the food items are made from authentic recipes from the ancient Spice Road (see the back page of the menu below for some details on this).
He noted that some of the items may not be to our (or even his) particular tastes, but were authentic to the original recipes and not altered to make them more appealing to American palates (and I’m paraphrasing here – I actually wish I’d taped his discourse as it was quite interesting and informative). He left us to peruse the menu and when he returned we selected our beverages to start…
Bonnie ordered the White Wine Flight…
she thought all were fine, but other than the Ksara Blanc de Blanc (which she graciously allowed me to sample and I quite liked) were nothing special. The flights come in glasses with the Spice Road logo on them and a description of each wine is provided.
I had a Spanish beer while Papa Harry ordered a glass of wine.
Mama Ginny had one of the signature cocktails – the Tangier’s Breeze. When asked how it tasted, she replied “Like something I want to drink for the rest of the day”! I think she liked it…
We ordered our food and enjoyed the beautiful weather, setting and company while we waited for our meal to arrive.
Mama Ginny wasn’t famished, so she selected the Hummus while the rest of us opted for the samplers.
I ordered the Mogador (seafood) Sampler with Mussels Tagine, Salted Cod Croquettes & Fried Calamari.
Bonnie & Harry both chose the meaty Tingis Sampler composed of Moroccan Lamb Sausage, a Harissa Chicken Roll and a Lamb Slider.
Mama Ginny was a bit underwhelmed with the hummus selections – I tried them and even though the plain version wasn’t anything special, I personally liked the tomato version, and the olives and pickles were nice. This would be a good item for a table to share as an “appetiser” to some other small plates.
I’d really been looking forward to trying the Mussels Tagine as I’m a Mussel-Fan, but these didn’t really do it for me…
According to the menu these are prepared with cilantro, garlic, lemon confit and tomato sauce… I’m more used to a steamed or perhaps grilled presentation of these bivalves served in the shell, but these were sans shell and had a more mealy texture like you’d find in a tinned, smoked version. They weren’t bad mind you, but I wasn’t excited by them and doubt I’d order them again.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Salted Cod Croquettes however – I was expecting a stronger flavor from the salt cod, but these fritters were mild and nicely flavored.
The best of the sampler was without a doubt the Fried Calamari. Our waiter said this was by far his favorite item on the entire menu, and these crispy, tender (for calamari) rings and tentacles were delicious! I’ve downed plenty of fried squid in my day, and these were among the best I’ve ever had – I’d return here just for more of these!
The Tingis Sampler was pretty much all a hit. The dense Lamb Sausage came served atop a salad of chopped tomato, red onion and cilantro and was quite good.
The Harissa Chicken Roll (with a side of spicy ketchup) is the same item as usually seen at the Morocco booth during the Food & Wine Festival. Like an egg roll filled with slightly spicy chicken mixture and studded with corn kernels this is a really nice item.
The real winner of the sampler for Miss Bonnie (and I couldn’t argue with her on it’s virtues) was the mini lamb burger (yes, I have an aversion to the term “slider”… keep waiting for that rant Dedicated Readers…). Served on a seeded brioche bun and topped with a tzatziki sauce, this juicy lamb patty was really good… I’d love a full-size version of this!
Despite this being a “small plates” kinda-place, we were all sated after our choices and couldn’t find the room for dessert – our servers favorite was the Chocolate Pyramid, which we saw at a neighboring table, and sometime we’ll return to try it out…
Now for a couple of notes about this place…
You do get served on real plates and with real silverware, the napkins aren’t cloth, but they are very heavy and have the logo nicely printed on them.
When asked if we wanted water, we were brought bottled sparkling water (which of course we were charged for), so be sure to specify you want a glass of ice water unless you want otherwise.
At this time they do not take Tables in Wonderland, but our server indicated “they were looking into it”…
Also for the time being the bar was only for drinks being served at the tables, but our server noted that they hoped to have the bar open for walk-up guests in the fututre.
The restaurant is gorgeous… simply gorgeous…
but the seating areas are fairly small – total capacity looks to be under 100. And I’m sure the outside seats will be in high demand for Illuminations.
There’s been a lot of “compare and contrast” online about this and the Tangerine Cafe, but they are really two different animals and two different experiences. Yes, per “volume of food” this is more expensive, but it’s also a sit-down, even if the servings are “small plates”… I’d give it a try before downplaying it as many seem to have done… we’re looking forward to going back and trying some items we didn’t have on our first visit!
In the attached building is also the gift shop, a section of which is currently devoted to food items.
Spices, coffees, teas, wines and more are available for purchase.
Next door to the gift shop is the Art of Henna…
and at the end of the building opposite the restaurant is a take-out window…
with an assortment of sweets and beverages.
Here ended our visit to Morocco, but we weren’t quite done with Africa…
as we made our way to the village of Harambe in Disney’s Animal Kingdom…
for a visit to the recently re-located Dawa Bar for a few African Margaritas.
With the on-going construction in Harambe due to the new theater being built for the Festival of the Lion King show, the Dawa Bar was moved from it’s original location to the new one a few yards away to the right of the entrance area/podium for the Tusker House restaurant.
The new bar is certainly larger and more open than the previous incarnation – you can even walk all around the back of it if you are so inclined.
There is more seating right at the bar, but there is precious little other seating right now, and we’ll have to see if the former plethora of tables returns after the construction walls come down and the area opens up again.
After a couple of rounds we made our way out of the park, and thus ended our culinary and cocktail highlights of Marathon weekend.
Hope you enjoyed the look back at some eats & drinks… there is more from the World to share with you soon! But for now its back to the kitchen!